Dogs try to make sense of what we expect from them

Dogs try to make sense of what we expect from them

Dogs living in our families often observe our actions, but do they understand why we do what we do? Do they understand that our actions may be aiming at a specific goal? Researchers at the Family Dog Project (Department of Ethology, Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest) have developed a method that may provide an answer to this question. They first trained dogs with the Do as I Do method to faithfully imitate human-demonstrated actions upon request “Do it!” ( Dogs trained to imitate human actions with the Do as I Do method were tested on how they reproduced actions that either included or not an obvious goal. They found that dogs, similar to chimpanzees and 12-18-month human infants, could recognize the goals of others’ actions. When the action did not include the goal, dogs imitated the body movement performed by the demonstrator, but when a goal was apparent and recognizable, they tended to reach it by their own means, instead of reproducing the details of the action.


Fugazza, C., Petro, E., Miklósi, Á., & Pogány, Á. (2018). Social learning of goal-directed actions in dogs (Canis familiaris): Imitation or emulation? Journal of Comparative Psychology.

A brief video of the tests is already on our YouTube channel: